Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier told CNN the main purpose is to monitor and track coronavirus if it should ever come in to tribal lands.
Thus, the tribes are only allowing vehicles to pass through the reservations for essential business, and that access is granted only if the vehicle has not traveled recently from a hot spot of the outbreak. Drivers are also required to complete a health questionnaire.
Some cars have been turned away.
“We want to ensure that people coming from ‘hot spots’ or highly infected areas, we ask them to go around our land,” Frazier said, according to CNN.
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“The checkpoints on state and US highways are not legal, and if they don’t come down, the state will take the matter to federal court, as Governor Noem noted in her Friday letter,” her senior adviser and policy director, Maggie Seidel, said in an email sent to the local Argus Leader newspaper on Sunday.
Seidel cited a memorandum pertaining to road closures on tribal lands issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, written on April 8, which more or less says the tribes didn’t consult or reach agreement with the state before going forward with the roadblocks.
“The memorandum makes it perfectly clear it is unlawful to interrupt the flow of traffic on these roads,” Seidel wrote.
In Friday's letter, Noem said "we are strongest when we work together; this includes our battle against Covid-19," according to CNN.
Frazier said in a news release Friday that while he agreed it’s important to work together, “you continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation.
“We invite you to join us in protecting the lives of our people and those that live on this reservation. I regretfully decline your request.”
Both tribes have also issued strict stay-at-home orders and curfews for their communities, according to CNN.
Noem has not issued stay-at-home orders for the state.